Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Oliver's qualifications to write Letter VII

The LDS scholars and educators who try to discredit Letter VII because Oliver wasn't qualified to write it generally base their position on the premise that Oliver never "claimed revelation" about the Hill Cumorah.

The obvious response is, why would Oliver claim revelation when he had personally visited Mormon's depository of records, right there in the hill Cumorah in New York?

There's another consideration.

On April 19, 1834, Joseph gave Oliver a special blessing related to writing and publishing.

Brothers Joseph, Sidney, and Zebedee then laid hands upon bro. Oliver, and confirmed upon him the blessings of wisdom and understanding sufficient for his station; that he be qualified to assist brother Sidney in arranging the church covenants which are to be soon published; and to have intelligence in all things to do the work of printing. 

Here's the link to the original:

Aside from all his other qualifications, this blessing from Joseph Smith tells us that Oliver had "the blessings of wisdom and understanding" he needed to write the eight historical letters, including Letter VII.

There are also some who oppose Letter VII who say that Joseph didn't really help Oliver write the letters. Here's one reason to think Joseph and Oliver worked together.

On August 17, 1835, the Presidency of the Church met to examine and approve the book of commandments and covenants, which had been compiled and written by the committee. This took place when Oliver was still writing and publishing the letters.

Here are the minutes:

General Assembly,
Convened in   August 17th. A.D. 1835 by the  of the  , for the purpose of Examining a book of commandments and covenants, which has been compiled and written by the following committee, which was appointed by a general assembly of the Church in  Sept. 24th 1834 & instructing the writers of said Book. This committee was nominated, by the Speaker of the  , seconded & voted into this office, by the whole body of the church then assembled. The names of the Committe are as follows Joseph Smith Junr.   &  . This Committe having finished said Book according to the instructions given them, it was deemed necessary to call the general assembly of the Church to see whether the book be approved or not by the Authoroties of the church, that it may, if approved, become a law. unto the church, and a rule of faith and practice unto the same. Therefore, this assembly was called to order & organized as follows. First the Presidents of the church in  , (Viz.)
}present and took the lead of the meeting
Joseph Smith Junr.}absent

Joseph and Oliver worked on this committee to "compile and write" the revelations. It seems strange to argue that they did not also work together on the historical letters that Oliver was publishing in the same time frame.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mormon's repository in Cumorah explained in Letter VII

I find that many members of the Church are unaware of Mormon's repository of records in the Hill Cumorah in New York, so I'm reviewing that here.

In Letter VII, Oliver Cowdery wrote that Mormon, "by divine appointment, abridged from those [Nephite] records, in his own style and language, a short account of the more important and prominent items, from the days of Lehi to his own time, after which he deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, [now Mormon 6:6] all the records in this same hill, Cumorah and after gave his small record to his son Moroni, who, as appears from the same, finished, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation."

How did Oliver know that the Hill Cumorah in New York was the one Mormon described in Mormon 6:6? Was he just speculating, as many of our LDS scholars and educators claim?

Orson Pratt and others explained there were two separate departments in the Hill Cumorah in New York.


Brigham Young addressed this point in a sermon he delivered just two months before he died. He was organizing a stake in Davis County, Utah, on June 17, 1877, and he made these observations. [my comments in red].

"I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. 

[So far as we know, Oliver didn't write anything about this except for what he wrote in Letters VII and VIII.]

I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family.

[Brigham thought this was important for people to know. We don't know if he knew he was going to die two months later, but this was one of his last sermons.]

Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did.

[I'm not aware of another account of these instructions, so we're limited to this statement. There are at least three times when "Joseph got the plates." The first was in September 1827, when he retrieved the first set of plates from Moroni's stone box. We have no account of Joseph being told to return them to the hill Cumorah on that occasion. The second time he obtained the plates was when they were returned to him after Martin Harris lost the 116 pages. We have no details about that. The third time Joseph received the plates was in Fayette. This is the most likely event that Brigham was referring to here because we already know that he didn't return the plates to the hill Cumorah after the first two times he got them. The first time, after Harris lost the 116 pages, the plates were taken from Joseph. The second time, before he left Harmony, Joseph gave the plates to a messenger who in turn carried them to Cumorah. This leaves the third time, when Joseph got the plates from the angel in Fayette. These were the plates of Nephi, mentioned in D&C 10, which Joseph translated in Fayette. We know that shortly after he finished the translation, he showed a set of plates to the 8 Witnesses in the Palmyra area. His mother said Joseph got those plates from one of the 3 Nephites, but she doesn't say when this occurred. It seems likely that it was one of the 3 Nephites who got the plates of Nephi from the Hill Cumorah, took them to Fayette, and instructed Joseph to carry them back to the hill Cumorah. Before doing so, Joseph showed them to the 8 witnesses. Alternatively, Joseph could have returned them to the hill Cumorah and then retrieved them again to show the 8 witnesses. Or, possibly, the Nephite gave Joseph the plates in the Palmyra area with instructions to return them to the hill Cumorah. Overall, this statement of Brigham's corroborates the two-sets-of-plates scenario.]

Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room.

[This statement has caused some confusion, but it's clear when understood in context. The room found on the Hill Cumorah that matches the description of the repository opens from the top. In that sense, the hill "opens" when you lift the lid. It's not a magical opening door like the automatic sliding doors we see everywhere today. When Brigham says "a cave," the term can refer to either a natural or artificial (man-made) hollow space within a hill or mountain. Others said the room was about 16 x 16, which fits Brigham's description by comparison to many of the rooms in pioneer-era homes.]

He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day.

[This makes sense because the opening was in the ceiling. The sun would naturally shine inside, and as one's eyes adjusted, it would be plenty bright.]

They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls.

[IMO, this is the same table and plates that David Whitmer described, except he (like Oliver) knew he wasn't supposed to speak publicly about this repository. That's why he retroactively claimed he saw these things when the angel appeared at the 3 Witnesses event. It's also interesting that Brigham refers to "probably many wagon loads." This appears to be Oliver's first impression. Later, IMO, Oliver and others actually did move the plates on wagons.]

The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

[This is another example of the confusion David Whitmer caused when he claimed he saw the sword of Laban at the time the 3 Witnesses saw the plates. The sword of Laban was never in Moroni's stone box. I don't think the 3 Witnesses saw it when they first saw the plates for several reasons I've discussed before. Here, we learn it was hanging on the wall in Mormon's repository. This statement also tells us that Joseph and Oliver, at least, visited the repository at least twice.]

[Note: in the FairMormon article discussed below, they omit the following portions of Brigham Young's sermon.]

I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life.

[Oliver was not the only one familiar with the repository. It's difficult to imagine anyone who had visited the repository forgetting about it, but apparently others had heard the same account from Oliver but had forgotten about it. It was to make sure people didn't forget that Brigham gave this sermon, yet many Church members today still don't know about this event.]

I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. 

[By now, if you didn't know about this before, you're wondering why not. The answer is simple. Our leading LDS scholars and educators (and their students who staff the Curriculum department) promote the two-Cumorahs theory, which claims that Mormon's repository is somewhere in a Mexican mountain that is the "real" Cumorah. Later in this post I'll show some examples of how they treat what Oliver and Brigham' taught about the repository, but you can see this "two-Cumorahs" theory on display right now in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square, as I explain here.]

Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things.

[He's referring to Don Carlos, Joseph's younger brother who became the editor of the Times and Seasons. In 1841, Don Carlos republished Letter VII so everyone in the Church would know about the New York Cumorah, including Mormon's repository. Our LDS scholars and educators think Don Carlos was merely repeating a false tradition about the New York Cumorah. Here, Brigham Young tells us that Don Carlos, like Oliver Cowdery, knew from personal experience that there was only one Cumorah and it was in New York.]

Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.

[Unfortunately, Brigham doesn't tell us exactly what things Joseph's brothers saw.]

Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things, thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is not my mind.

[Had Brigham not publicly told these things, he would have taken them to his grave two months later.]

I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings of the Lord with his people here upon the earth.

[So would I. And I hope you share this with people you know, as well.]

Here's the reference for Brigham's sermon:

Now, what do our scholars and educators say about the repository?

Let's start with FairMormon. They have an article on this here:

I've spoken to FairMormon about this but they refuse to change the article or add additional material to it, so I think it's important for people to know what they're doing.

They quote part of Brigham Young's sermon, omitting the part about other witnesses to the site and Brigham's emphasis that he did not want this account to be forgotten and lost.

Then they make this awesome statement, followed by their comments. Everything below is from their web site, except my comments in red):

The geologic unlikelihood of a cave existing within the drumlin in New York called "Hill Cumorah" suggests that the experience related by the various witnesses was most likely a vision [This is another example of how FairMormon and other Mesomaniacs keep telling people that our modern prophets and apostles are not trustworthy. I'll defer comments to the explanations below.]

There are at least ten second hand accounts describing the story of the cave in Cumorah, however, Joseph Smith himself did not record the incident. [2] 
[FairMormon usually makes this logical error. When they claim "Joseph Smith himself did not record the incident," what they really mean is "there are no extant written documents by Joseph about this incident." Obviously, we can't say Joseph didn't record or relate the incident; we just don't have a record of him doing so. However, FairMormon doesn't tell you about Letter VII, which Joseph helped write and which he endorsed. As mentioned above, Letter VII verifies that the repository is located in the Hill Cumorah in New York.]
As mentioned previously, the Hill Cumorah located in New York state is a drumlin: this means it is a pile of gravel scraped together by an ancient glacier. The geologic unlikelihood of a cave existing within the hill such as the one described suggests that the experience related by the various witnesses was most likely a vision, or a divine transportation to another locale (as with Nephi's experience in 1 Nephi 11:1). 
[Of course, this theory is rebutted by the discovery of an actual room in the Hill Cumorah that matches the description, but let's set that aside to consider the reasoning here. Brigham and the others spoke of a room. Mormon says he deposited all the records, a point Oliver verified in Letter VII. Because these accounts contradict the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories, our LDS scholars and educators seize upon Brigham's use of the term "cave" and insist it must refer to a "natural cave," even though the term applies to both natural and artificial (man-made) caves. Then they claim Oliver, Don Carlos, and the others who personally knew about the repository, as well as Brigham Young who heard about it, must have been relating some sort of mass "vision" or, even better, "a divine transportation to another locale." And this happened not only once, with multiple people, but multiple times. And this happened after the angel told Joseph to "carry [the plates] back to the hill Cumorah." One of many obvious questions is, why did Joseph, Oliver, Don Carlos, Hyrum and others have to be teleported to Mexico? Why didn't the angel just teleport the plates? For that matter, why did the angel tell Joseph to carry the plates "back to the hill Cumorah" if Joseph was going to enjoy "divine transportation" to Mexico?
This is one of the prime examples of the absurd arguments that have to be concocted by our Mesomania scholars and educators to perpetuate their theories. In my view, this is just as bad as their basic premise that Joseph and Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church about Cumorah; i.e., now our scholars and educators want people to disbelieve Brigham Young as well.] 
John Tvedtnes supports this view:
The story of the cave full of plates inside the Hill Cumorah in New York is often given as evidence that it is, indeed, the hill where Mormon hid the plates. Yorgason quotes one version of the story from Brigham Young and alludes to six others collected by Paul T. Smith. Unfortunately, none of the accounts is firsthand.
[Seriously? Brigham Young prefaced his comments by explaining that Oliver didn't speak about these things in public. With good reason, it turns out, as David Whitmer explained. Of course, the implication here is that Brigham is not to be trusted; he's merely repeating hearsay. Our LDS scholars and educators who promote this line of reasoning never mention that Letter VII is as first hand as it gets.]
The New York Hill Cumorah is a moraine laid down anciently by a glacier in motion. It is comprised of gravel and earth. Geologically, it is impossible for the hill to have a cave,
[Here, he insists it had to be a natural cave, not a man-made cave, which is not required by the term itself, or the text. And, of course, he never mentions Letter VII.]
and all those who have gone in search of the cave have come back empty-handed.
[Hmm. It would be useful for the LDS scholars and educators who make this claim to provide a reference, wouldn't it? Who has gone "in search of a cave" in the Hill Cumorah? When?] 
If, therefore, the story attributed to Oliver Cowdery (by others) is true, then the visits to the cave perhaps represent visions, perhaps of some far distant hill, not physical events.[3]
[Again, notice the questioning of Brigham Young and the others who related the account, as well as of Oliver Cowdery. Purely because the New York Cumorah contradicts their two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories, these LDS scholars and educators want you to believe that Joseph, Oliver were ignorant speculators who misled the Church, repeating as actual events some "vision" of "some far distant hill" (presumably in Mexico), and "not physical events." This is exactly the same argument made by anti-Mormons who think everything Joseph and Oliver said did not involve "physical events."]

Given that the angel Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously, it is not unreasonable to assume that he was capable of transporting them to a different location than the hill in New York. As Tvedtnes asks, "If they could truly be moved about, why not from Mexico, for example?"[3]

[This might be my favorite spin of all. I'd like to see documentation for when "Moroni had retrieved the plates from Joseph several times previously." The only two times I'm aware of where after the 116 pages were lost, and before Joseph left Harmony. We don't know it was Moroni to whom Joseph gave them before he left Harmony, although some assume it was. But this was not a magical, "divine" transportation event. They met the messenger along the road to Fayette. He had the plates in his knapsack. He was physically carrying them back to Cumorah. 

I realize the Mesomanics want you to think these plates could be magically transported from Mexico to Palmyra, willy nilly, because they can't otherwise explain these incidents in Church history. But that theory contradicts the text of the Book of Mormon as well as Letter VII and all the other accounts in Church history. If the plates (and other artifacts) were so easily transported, why did Moroni have to build a box of stone and cement and bury them all the way in New York 1400 years before Joseph could get them? 

I'm not going to take the time to show you more examples of the way the Mesomaniacs undermine faith in the founders of the Church, but you will find lots of examples if you look for them.]

Monday, July 10, 2017

Letter VII inoculation and the two departments in the New York Cumorah

I need to post something about Letter VII that has been overlooked, but it's important to provide the context for the issue for those new to this site.

Some LDS scholars and educators are still trying to persuade people that the "real" Cumorah is in Mexico. They advocate the "two-Cumorahs" and "Mesoamerican" theories that claim Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ignorant speculators who misled the Church with a false tradition about Cumorah being in New York.

[Some people don't believe our LDS scholars and educators teach these things, but anyone who teaches the limited Mesoamerican geography models teaches exactly what I wrote in the preceding paragraph. You'll see it in BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Mesomania Meridian Magazine, FairMormon, the old FARMS stuff, everything published by the Maxwell Institute, BMAF, Book of Mormon Central (America), etc.]

Those who have read Letter VII are inoculated against these theories. That's why you won't see Letter VII being taught at BYU, CES, or in anything published by the citation cartel.*

Here's a simple example.

Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball and others explained that Mormon's repository (Mormon 6:6) was in the same Hill Cumorah in New York from which Joseph obtained the plates from Moroni. There were two departments in the hill. Moroni's stone box was in one location, while the repository of Nephite records was in another location. I've provided the references plenty of times.

Letter VII explained this first, though.

Mormon, "by divine appointment, abridged from those records, in his own style and language, a short account of the more important and prominent items, from the days of Lehi to his own time, after which he deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, all the records in this same hill, Cumorah and after gave his small record to his son Moroni, who, as appears from the same, finished, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation."

Here's the link from Joseph  Smith's own history:

Bonus clue. Those who are familiar with the two sets of plates scenario will recognize that Oliver is telling us about that here as well. Oliver says Mormon gave "his small record" to Moroni. Mormon's "small record" consisted of the abridgment, "in his own style and language." Mormon deposited all of the original records in the hill Cumorah in New York. The abridged records are the ones Joseph took to Harmony, where he translated them all (except the sealed portion), through the last leaf (the Title Page).

But in D&C 10, the Lord tells Joseph he has to translate the plates of Nephi to replace the lost 116 pages.

The plates of Nephi were not abridged. They were original records. Consequently, it is not only the title page and all the other evidence that informs us that Joseph did not have the plates of Nephi in Harmony, but here, Oliver tells us the same thing.

Mormon did not give any original plates to Moroni.

Joseph did not get the plates of Nephi from Moroni's stone box. He never had them in Harmony. He didn't get them until he arrived in Fayette.

We just have to pay close attention to understand what Oliver is saying, but it's as clear as words can be.

*The sole exception of which I am aware is Book of Mormon Central, which, to their credit, did put the first edition of my short book titled Letter VII: Oliver Cowdery's Message to the World about the Hill Cumorah, into their database. But then they added critical articles without giving me a chance to respond or even including my responses that they know about. Unsuspecting readers who go to Book of Mormon Central think they are getting both sides of the issue of Letter VII, but instead they are getting a false, incomplete presentation of the issues with the editorial thumb firmly on the Mesomania side of the scale.

For this reason, I no longer even try to work with Book of Mormon Central. They are unabashed advocates of the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories, exactly as I described in the first paragraph. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The First Presidency taught...

In the First Presidency message for July 2017, President Eyring wrote an insightful article titled "The Reward of Enduring Well" that contains this passage:

The First Presidency taught Elder Parley P. Pratt (1807–57) when he was a newly called member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “You have enlisted in a cause that requires your whole attention; … become a polished shaft. … You must endure much toil, much labor, and many privations to become perfectly polished. … Your Heavenly Father requires it; the field is His; the work is His; and He will … cheer you … and buoy you up.”1

Footnote 1 is "Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1979), 120.

The original source for this passage is Minutes and Blessings, 21 February 1835, found in the Joseph Smith papers here:

The passage follows this explanation: "The following charge was then given Elder P. P. Pratt by President O. Cowdery."

This charge, given by Oliver Cowdery, was done on behalf of the First Presidency. This is why President Eyring tells us that "the First Presidency taught" Elder Pratt, even though it was Oliver who did the instructing.

At the conclusion of Oliver's charge, the minutes record this:

"Elder Pratt gave his hand to President O. Cowdery and said he had received ordination and should fulfil the ministry according to the grace given him. To which the President replied, Go forth and Angels shall bear thee up and thou shalt come forth at the last day bringing many with thee."

Can there be any doubt that Oliver Cowdery acted with the authority of the First Presidency?

That same month, February 1835, the Messenger and Advocate published Oliver Cowdery's letter IV. A few months later, in July 1835, Oliver published Letter VII.

Because it contradicts their theories (the two-Cumorahs and Mesoamerican theories), many LDS scholars and educators still try to persuade members of the Church that Letter VII is false. They actually want you to believe that Oliver Cowdery, who was the Assistant President of the Church at the time, acted with the authority of the First Presidency in all matters except for certain passages of this one letter. 

Think about that for a moment.

The Mesoamerican activists want you to believe that Oliver (and Joseph Smith, who helped write these letters and endorsed them multiple times) were ignorant speculators who misled the Church. This is especially ironic because Oliver started Letter VII by pointing out that  "any tune can be played upon the bible." As he explained, "What is here meant to be conveyed, I suppose, is, that proof can be adduced from that volume, to support as many different systems as men please to choose."

It was specifically to avoid that problem that Oliver wrote with clarity and precision about the early history of the Church. He noted that "men, in previous generations, have, with polluted hands and corrupt hearts, taken from the sacred oracles many precious items which were plain of comprehension, for the main purpose of building themselves up in the trifling things of this world."

It seems possible, if not likely, that Oliver anticipated a future time when even members of the Church would question basic facts about Church history that were well known in his day. Perhaps it was for that reason that he emphasized the fact that the hill in New York, where Joseph found the plates, was in reality the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon. Here's what he wrote:

"At about one mile west rises another ridge of less height, running parallel with the former, leaving a beautiful vale between. The soil is of the first quality for the country, and under a state of cultivation, which gives a prospect at once imposing, when one reflects on the fact, that here, between these hills, the entire power and national strength of both the Jaredites and Nephites were destroyed.

"By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon you will read Mormon's account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. (It is printed Camorah, which is an error.) In this valley fell the remaining strength and pride of a once powerful people, the Nephites-once so highly favored of the Lord, but at that time in darkness, doomed to suffer extermination by the hand of their barbarous and uncivilized brethren. From the top of this hill, Mormon, with a few others, after the battle, gazed with horror upon the mangled remains of those who, the day before, were filled with anxiety, hope, or doubt. A few had fled to the South, who were hunted down by the victorious party, and all who would not deny the Savior and his religion, were put to death. Mormon himself, according to the record of his son Moroni, was also slain.

"But a long time previous to this national disaster it appears from his own account, he foresaw approaching destruction. In fact, if he perused the records of his fathers, which were in his possession, he could have learned that such would be the case. Alma, who lived before the coming of the Messiah, prophesies this. He however, by divine appointment, abridged from those records, in his own style and language, a short account of the more important and prominent items, from the days of Lehi to his own time, after which he deposited, as he says, on the 529th page, all the records in this same hill, Cumorah, and after gave his small record to his son Moroni, who, as appears from the same, finished, after witnessing the extinction of his people as a nation."

The Mesoamerican advocates want you to disbelieve what Oliver wrote here because it directly contradicts their own theories.

But isn't their approach exactly what Oliver was seeking to refute?

The Mesoamerican activists are "playing their own tune" on the writings of Oliver Cowdery, specifically repudiating what he so clearly and unambiguously declared.

Remember that whenever you read about Book of Mormon geography in BYU Studies, FairMormon, the Intepreter, Book of Mormon Central, Meridian Magazine, or any other member of the citation cartel.